tv Book Discussion on The Kurdish Spring CSPAN April 7, 2015 12:04am-1:10am EDT
way is from the antiquities remember the heartland of the bible where jonah was with a profit daniels to in iraq and syria to have biblical significance. so it is just good old fashioned pillaging as they conquered will sold -- model -- and what what they took from that conquest where isis kaposi's oilfields and they sell that on the black market in the middle east of turkey and syria began the lebanon and their making two or $3 million per day.
so lots of different revenue streams. you see the tower and the village you make them pay tribute to with it exorbitant taxes so multiple revenue streams without a doubt. >> i cannot say kiwi neff. faq for coming. to have that intellectual courage of the ushers. and i am so privileged to be his friend. [applause]
welcome on this very day to is the book round table with david phillips. i a professor of science and director of the special sciences programming on behalf of the institute from columbia university will come to the brooklyn general conversation. "the kurdish spring" a new map of the middle east" authored by david phillips who was sitting here to your right. director of the peace building university to study rights and worked as a senior adviser and a foreign affairs expert the end of a senior advisor with different academic institutions with a conflict
resolution program and as a visiting scholar from harvard university and a professor and there has been numerous projects but there has been operations or projects were theory or analysis throughout the world from the far corners of the caucuses for what he puts into his analysis. so extremely prolific we will have a conversation. it is about the book.
so welcome david is a pleasure to be with you. maybe we start by how did you become aware i was working with the tibetan refugees in day assume that to use the kurds using chemical weapons i went visit in my office by a neurosurgeon in to interview the president of kirkuk. and those that were victimized i write about it in the preface of my book to
have kurdish civilians at pressuring the chemical weapons attack. these photos depicted traditional fallout. kurdish women and girls in head scarves they did in the street with the faces twisted in english with blood running from their mouth. pain exposed in death. but the attack was not isolated but was part of a broader campaign launched by saddam hussein but that either the course was spoiled with 420-0500 villagers -- villages were destroyed.
reversed assignment in washington was to respond with the debut empty to this attack. as of close personal association including a visit soon after but i think this is and then to devote various parts but these are the common themes but the particulars from these different countries. >> there are about 32 million kurds. that makes them the largest group in the world. during the first world for
teetoo aspire to be a nation of their own. while the there were sitting at the dinner table ioc and the power of speech conference that will set repudiated and he addressed the congress. to say that self-determination was a cherished right detonations could not be barred did from seven -- as chattel as one great big game. as a result of that peace conference to achieve the national aspiration it also
overuse of knowing which was prohibited. there was the resettlement lot for relocated. and a series of security measures launched against the kurdish rebels that brought the human suffering to the current population ultimately so part of the workers' party established in 1978. >> our armed struggle with those of 30,000 people over the course of several decades. at the same time that iraq to gained independence in 1932. the king did not believe then the approach.
>> host: those were relocated? the kurdish political rights were systematically denied. am not sure how fast i did those. but to manipulate the kurds against the regime in iraq and to but until recently they never really coalesced as uh groupon. and as the defining moment of this transition but with
humanitarian crisis the u.s. delivered humanitarian supplies. . .humanitarian corridor leding tens of thousands of people to flee to the area. the second phase was human humanitarian. america's approach evolved to a point where we focused on retaking territory and assisted some iraqi forces and the battle to retake the mosul dam and launched counter offenses to regain other territory like on the region of the turkey/syria boulevard. all of this is happening at the same time we were getting
involved in kobani and isis is a real threat to iraq to syria, it controls people that live under isis control. isis is well-armed because of the arms they seized from the iraqi's armed forces. they were operating 18 oil wells and refineries and generate revenue from hostage taking and artifacts. the budget is estimated at $2 billion. they are a force to be wreck
with. >> i want to back up because you have been very straight with criticizing u.s.-iraq policy and you have done so across both administrations in terms of the governance of iraq and some of the decisions that were made after the american military intervention there. so i want to get your take on the failure of the united states to reach a status of forces agreement with iraq. at the time there were different issues in the negotiations, status of contractors, you know different rights of command and control. also the u.s. according to gates' biography told the iraqis they should consult with some other countries that have posted u.s. military forces in the past and it turned out that backfired because of the japanese and the
they got all the details of issues that should be of concern to them. so we have this parting of the ways, this withdrawal of u.s. forces. what is your take on that? was that just one of these pivotal points and at the u.s. had withdrawn would we have seen the isis problem in all of its theory and complexity now? >> so isis goes back to the invasion and occupation of iraq. it was originally established as al qaeda in mesopotamia. the surge of 2006 and 2007 was intended to deal with the sectarian conflict between shia and sunnis. it was the election of nouri al-maliki and his descendents to the prime minister that further polarized iraqi society.
we should ascribe responsibility to the withdrawal of u.s. forces where it belongs which is with president bush. in 2008 he announced u.s. forces would be withdrawn. the day we set the withdrawal, timing and procedures for withdrawal were negotiated with the government in baghdad. the status of forces agreement to which you refer is something that the obama administration tried to negotiate with maliki's government. they broke down for a variety of reasons mostly because the obama administration did want to stay. the iraqi government did want to happen there. the rationale for u.s. forces staying as a residual deployment was a hard case to make. so by the end of 2011 as you saw the u.s. essentially withdraw all of its assets from iraq, and mind you this was after we had invested enormous amounts of troops and treasure, 4500 americans killed,
30,000 maimed, $2 trillion spent. let's not forget 130,000 iraqi's that we know of who were killed. so it was really time for that war to end but in order for iraq to be viable and stable in the future we needed to have the government of national reconciliation. nouri al-maliki was just the wrong person to be in the prime minister's post at that time. he replaced sunnis from the armed forces. he created his own shia led battalions. he turned to iran and iranian backed militias, assuming a more and more prominent role in providing security around the country. so the sectarian divide in iraq is fundamentally at the root of the country's problems today. we talk about a government of
>> iraqi forces massed to retake the city from isis is dominated by sulemani, the general in charge of the quds force the iranian revolutionary guard. he's not commanding from afar he is on site. shiite militias are on the front line. capabilities of the professional iraqi military still leave an enormous amount to be desired. so the perception that the u.s. has, essentially shifted its alliances through its negotiations with iran by finding common cause, you know, with hezbollah against muslim sunni fighters in syria have all
polarized the sunni-shia divide and made iraq's viability -- which was already remote -- even more difficult to achieve. >> what about, you referred to them -- what about u.s. traditional allies in the gulf? how have they responded? what is their role in the whole unfolding of this political dynamic? >> make no mistake about it the initial funding or more al-qaeda and for isis came from individuals in the emirates. it may not have been official policy of saudi arabia but members of the saudi royal family provided significant financial resources. monies flowed from the uae. there's a widespread view that the u.s. hasn't preserved its traditional alliances. particularly the arab spring and
what happened in egypt raised all kinds of red flags because none of the sunni heads of state who we supported wanted to fall to the same fate as mubarak. and they pelt that america's loyalty and -- they felt that america's loyalty and support was at question. >> interesting. another neighbor, turkey. take us through turkey's performance, its strategy, its objectives throughout this whole crisis the multiple constituencies that they're addressing. how do you view the turkish role both now and going forward in this? >> so turkey has proven to be a false friend of the united states. it has betrayed the interests of its strategic partnership with the iraqi kurds. >> how so? >> the kurds and ankara established a strategic partnership beginning in 2011.
a pipeline was built from kirkuk to jahan on the eastern mediterranean. oil would be exported and stored in tankers in jahan. in 2013 there were $13 billion worth of turkish goods sold in kurdistan, there was an additional $30 billion worth of construction contracts that were agreed to, so there was a lot of economic cooperation. what happened in 2012 in turkey was a seminal shift in the country's approach. then-prime minister erdogan felt deeply offended by president assad of syria. he turned against assad, with whom he had worked to establish friendly relations. he thought that the u.s. would lead an effort to support the free syrian army and the syrian
national council so there would be are ea regime change finish there would be a regime change. when that didn't happen, turkey decided to support arab sunni extremists as the point of the spear fighting the assad government. and that included support for al-nusra and, ultimately, for the islamic state. so turkey was serving its own national interests without regard for its longstanding loyalty and ties to the united states. when isis invaded iraqi kurdistan, the kurdistan regional government sent an envoy asking for weapons and support. they were told by the turkish counterpart that they couldn't respond because there were presidential elections coming up on august 10th. after those elections the envoy went back asking for help. they were told that turkey couldn't respond because there were 46 turkish diplomats who
were being held hostage. they were seized from the consulate in mosul. during the battle of kobani, president erdogan equated isis and the pyd saying that they were terrorist groups cut from the same cloth. turkish tank battalions parked on the hills above kobani and watched the battle unfold without coming to rescue of the heroic defenders of ecobanny. i should -- of coe -- kobani. 40% of the defenders were kurdish women. this was a huge strategic and public relates disaster for turkey. relations disaster for turkey. it showed turkey's loyalties to isis. there were reports that were published including a paper that i prepared documenting logistical connections between turks and the government of turkey, you know with islamic state fighters. they operated the jihadi highway
through turkey to syria. they provided weapons and financing and logistics. when jihadis were injured on the battlefield, they were transported by turkey's ministry of health and given health care in turkish hospitals without having to declare their name or cup of origin. or country of origin. so so let me elaborate a little bit on the ideology. when the deputy prime minister of turkey said that women shouldn't smile or laugh because it's un-islamic and they shouldn't draw attention to themselves, this is no different an ideology than baghdadi's ideology with the islamic state. the difference is that turkey doesn't chop off people's heads that they use other forms of coercion to advance their perceived strategic goals. finish -- so i really put isis and turkey in the same category. when we launched the multi-national coalition, turkey agreed to sign on, but they signed on in name only.
there was no agreement no implementation of the agreement to allow an air force base in southern turkey to be used as a staging ground for coalition war planes. there was an agreement to train and equip the moderate syrian opposition. here again turkey didn't implement that agreement. it was just announced ten days ago they would, in fact set up a train and equip program for 400 fighters. but even now there's confusion about what the purpose of this is. turkey's saying it's to turn against the assad regime the u.s. is saying that the train and equip program is to counter isis. when vice president joe biden goes to turkey and asks for turkey's help, he's repudiated by president erdogan and within hours of boarding his plane to leave, the president of turkey himself is uttering disparaging and degrading remarks against the united states. so i would say that beginning in
2012 turkeys has taken a decidedly undemocratic turn. if we were constituting nato today, turkey would not qualify as a member. nato is not just a security alliance, it's a coalition of countries with shared values, and turkey has demonstrated repeatedly under this authoritarian leadership of erdogan that it's no longer subscribe ising to western ideals -- subscribing to western ideals, that it's going to go its own direction. and as a result of that there's serious question about the u.s./turkey alliance. >> okay. let's talk about possibilities of an independent kurdish state for a minute. what would be its viability? what would be the political obstacles that would have to be overcome? are we any closer to that now than we were before this conflict? how do you see the dynamic in northern iraq playing out and
what are some of is the sign posts we should look for in the future? >> if we had this conversation in june after isis invaded iraq i would have said iraqi kurdistan was on the verge of independence. iraq was falling apart. it couldn't control its territory. when isis turned and attacked iraqi kurdistan, that changed the whole dynamic within iraq. two elements for independence are security and economic viability. security has been restored in iraqi kurdistan but it hasn't been restored as a result of u.s. weapons provided to the peshmerga. finish the first country -- the first country to actually land and deliver weapons during the cry us was not the united states, it was iran. and the heavy weapons that the kurds need in order to deal with the isis armor are not being provided by the pentagon.
missiles are coming from germany. france is providing 20 millimeter armor-piercing provisions. when i was in iraqi kurdistan a month ago, i spoke with senior kurdish officials and they explained the problems they have with the pentagon in getting the equipment that they need, their desire for heavy weapons including on thive heavy weapons -- offensive heavy weapons like tanks and artillery. they said that the training has been sluggish. when i asked a senior u.s. official, he said, well, the peshmerga are on the front line fighting, we're having trouble organizing them. that notion was repudiated by senior kurdish officials. so the u.s. is a major obstacle to iraqi kurdistan's independence. the conditions of security and economic viability are being established, but they haven't been fully man pest.
manifest. kurds have been trying to sell oil around the world. the u.s. has actively lobbied countries not to buy their oil. there was a kurdish tanker a kurdish -- a tanker filled with kurdish oil that was going through morocco. the u.s. intervened repeatedly with the the moroccan government not to buy the oil. there was a tanker off the coast of galveston, and the u.s. brought a legal action true a federal court -- through a federal court to block the offloading of the oil. the kurds say we want to have income in order procure weapons and defend ourselves, so they haven't been allowed to do that. largely because the u.s., iran and turkey stand in their way. so they're not going to declare a unilateral declaration of
undependence. -- independence. that would only invite the rancor of front line states. there's not likely to be a coalition of independence like the united states did with kosovo much to the bush administration's credit for having spearheaded that process. as long as the u.s. and turkey oppose it, there won't be a cbi. there needs to be some kind of negotiation with baghdad, and in december the krg and the iraqi government signed baghdad agreement. that essentially renewed the distribution of funds from the central government to the krg. there's a 17% payout of national income that goes to iraqi kurdistan. that was suspended in january of 2014. because the kurds were moving to develop and export their oil without a revenue and royalty-sharing agreement with the central government.
the baghdad agreement essentially was a revenue-generating agreement but it's a temporary deal. for just a year. it allows a 17% payout to resume. and it establishes an important precedent of the kurds and baghdad negotiating their differences. meanwhile, iraqi kurdistan needs to start acting more like a sovereign state rather than like a tribe or a militia. they need to establish greater transparency over the oil revenues. there are an estimated 45 billion barrel of reserves in iraqi kurdistan. they need to have a crackdown on corruption. you know more inclusive and participatory politics. operation northern watch that was launched in 1991 the kurds have gotten a running start on building their institutions and establishing a democracy.
so they're far ahead of iraq and other countries in the region. i would say the kurds have a positive democratization effect in each country where they live. so they can have a positive effect on events in iraq. with turkey having national elections the this june -- this june, kurds are standing as an independent party. if they pass the 10% barrier, erdogan's going to need kurdish support in order to change the constitution and establish an executive presidency, so the kurds will be the dealmakers there. the kurds in syria have established an autonomous entity that is a reality. it's not going away. marley now that the kurds -- particularly now that the kurds have shown some battlefield prowess. when the asyrian christians were seized in northeastern turkey, it was the syrian kurds who came to those villages and sought to liberate them.
so the kurds are earning a reputation as a responsible actor. they are conducting their affairs in the interests of kurds under their control and kurds in the region. but we're not going to see an independent kurdistan anytime soon. i think we're looking at a three to four-year project. and, ultimately, it's not something which is going to be achieved through confrontation or conflict. it's going to be achieved through a political dialogue. and in some ways that is going to be between erbil and baghdad. >> interesting. so let me ask you one more question and then just invite the audience to think about some questions to you while i do so.
you've given us the map of the challenges involved for kurdish statehood. what about just bringing stability to the region? all of these moving parts, the kurds -- i would take it -- should be part of a longer stabilization strategy long-term outlook in the region. but, you know, what advice are you giving policymakers now regarding this new middle eastern map and all of these changing -- what should be our priorities? >> there should be closer security or cooperation between the u.s. and iraqi kurdistan. that means that weapons should be delivered directly through the airport in erbil. instead of light and medium defensive weapons, we should be providing heavy weapons including those of an offensive nature. our training program should be intensified so the peshmerga are better skilled to go into battle. i had a conversation with the state department 48 hours ago about these very subjects.
i made a point that treating the kurdistan regional government as an ally and a friend isn't going to encourage their breakaway from iraq. it'll actually encourage a more moderate and slow approach on their part because hale be tweet -- they'll be treated with a dignity that they have shown to deserve. we should also be working closely with the kurds in syria. the head of the pyd was invited by columbia to come to a seminar here. he submitted his visa application at the u.s. embassy in stockholm almost three years ago. the u.s. government still hasn't acted on his visa request. since the pyd has shown that they're capable of taking on isis in kobani and elsewhere, we should be meeting with them, we should be talking about security cooperation, we should be supporting their political objectives. >> and not having these
relationships mediated by national b -- [inaudible] >> we don't have a relationship with the kurds of syria. there are occasionally meeting between the u.s. special envoy and -- [inaudible] in paris. but he should be invited to washington for a full scale consultation with the pentagon capitol hill and with the state department about closer cooperation. and when it comes to turkey, we should recognize that the pkk, which is on the u.s. list of foreign terrorist organizations, has now become a force for democracy and stability in the region. their participation in the battle of kobani was critical to defeating isis there. there are direct negotiations between abdullah -- [inaudible] and the turkish national intelligence agency about a peace deal. so if the government of turkey is negotiating with the pkk, why
should the u.s. keep the pkk on its fto list? as a way of galvanizing those negotiations and recognizing the positive contribution that the pkk can play, they should be removed from the list. and we should keep in mind they were only listed in the first place right after 9/11 as part of a deal that established turkey as head of the resistance force for afghanistan. so i advocate a kurdish-centric policy. looking at kurds as sources of stability, as proponents of democracy and having a positive influence on the regimes in the region. time will tell whether or not the u.s. pivots and provides the kind of political and diplomatic support for the kurds that they deserve. when they do it will serve u.s. national security interests and democracy in the middle east region. >> okay, great. well on that note, i think this
would be a good time to open it up to to questions from the audience. and there is a mic that's going to make its way around, so i would just ask that you identify yourself -- i think right here if we could get -- >> first question. >> identify yourself and your institutional affiliation and ask your question, that would be great. thank you. >> testing testing. >> you hear? all right. i work for an aid organization to benefit refugee children. question going into erbil, the capital of kurdistan it's very westernized, it's very liberal it has a sushi restaurant as reported. it's amazing how normal it seems. but when you stand on the border of erbil the fighting can be
seep from the the border -- can be seen from the border. the front line is 26 kilometers away. and it's so small that the u.s. government is hesitant to continue to assist with air raids. so how safe is it in this period of time and in the next four weeks for aid workers to go to erbil? >> great, thank you. >> so when i was on the border i was having images of kurdish friends of mine who i've worked with and known for many years swinging from street posts and lamp posts in erbil. we really came within a day of erbil falling. the obama administration intervened to preevent that. after benghazi, we didn't want to have another consul general collapse. we had major u.s. oil corporations with headquarters in erbil, and there was also an obligation to the kurds who had been steadfast allies and
friends of the united states since 1991. today iraqi kurdistan is still precarious. islamic state fighters recently awe tacked kirkuk. attacked kirkuk. they launched a major offensive. you can see them on horizon. the kurds are better prepared. they have adapted their battlefield techniques because of weapons that they've received from around the world. they're better equipped and able to deal with the islamic state challenge. but we can't assume that the kurds would withstand an islamic state assault. we need to stay focused and continue our security cooperation and expand the kinds of assistance that we've been providing. and the u.s. can take lead, but we should do that in
coordination with other countries that are supporting the kurds. when you rook -- look at the potential security partners of the u.s., you have the iraqi army which folded in mosul, you have the shiite militias that committed terrible atrocities in diyala. when tikrit fell, there were a thousand shiite members of the iraqi army who were slaughtered. what's going to happen if tikrit is retaken? you have the so-called moderate syrian opposition who despite the great efforts of the u.s. to fund them i'm not sure who they are. so when we think about security partners, we need to think about the kurds in the region and it would not be in our security interest nor would it be correct for the u.s. to allow iraqi kurdistan to fall to the islamic state. so it's, it has a tenuous situation, but ultimately, the kurds will prevail.
>> [inaudible] >> so you have a trip planned you'll be okay. when you're in erbil you'll have areat sen of .. that the islamic state is a real fighting force, and if we don't keep our eye on the adversary and support our friends, the islamic state could very well roll into iraqi kurdistan. now, i've always maintained that the u.s. should stop trying to placate its adversaries and start working more closely with it friends who are the kurds. the only thing that arabs can agree on in iraq is their shared dislike of the united states. >> let's take some more questions for david. yes, sir. wait for the microphone to make its way. great, thank you. >> thank you for this presentation. i'm alec from -- [inaudible] a scholar here. >> where are you from? >> from turkey. i'm assistant professor in
turkey. i have two question and one short comment. the first question is about the beginning of history -- >> we just ask you, sir, to speak slowly and clearly into the mic? because we're taping this. >> oh, okay. my first question and comment is about the beginning of history. you framed beginning of kurdish independence as the following u.k., france establish a commission, the p independence of kurdistan was about -- was a matter of time. but it was interrupted by ataturk's independence war. this was your framing of the beginning. but why we ignore the elephant in the room? the u.k. and france were there in this region and they colonized iraq syria and some part of this middle east region. and why they do not let the establishment of kurdish stay in
hair own colony of territory -- their own colony of territory if they were so good. this is my first question. second is about the current process in turkey. and the government is quite autocratic, tiranic, okay. but this same government is doing the peace process with pkk. they are negotiating -- >> can you just get to your second question? >> okay, this is second. yeah okay. this is my second question. and, but this was unimaginable a decade ago. in turkey, kurdish party is trying to be a part of turkey not a party of kurds currently. trying to reframe kurdish issue as a democratic issue in turkey. not an issue for independence. how do you take this recent
development -- >> thank you. and i'm going to have to cut you off just to get david'ss to those two with -- responses to those two important questions. initial u.k./french reaction and how do you judge this process with the pkk party with turkey now. >> they would have stood in support of kurdish national aspirations, but that required military confrontation with turkey. and with ataturk's forces. and after fighting a long world war, no great power had an in continued violent conflict. the u.s. was offered as a protect rate of the kurds -- protect rate of the kurds. but wilson's health was failing and he didn't want the u.s. to become a colonial power, so he
demured from that responsibility. clearly, the problems that exist in the region were set in motion by sykes and picot and then institutionalized later by lausanne. so your question about the negotiations with the pkk, we should be absolutely clear that the kurds of turkey do not want an independent kurdistan. they want to enjoy rights and democratic privileges equal to the the citizens of turkey. the problem is that other citizens of turkey don't have rights and democratic privileges. since 2012 turkey has pursued a decidedly authoritarian tendency
it was a peaceful protest over an environmental issue. there was a heavy-handed police response. accusations of police brutality. and protests spread to 60 cities. since then we've seen a systematic crackdown on freedom of expression. article 301 of the penal code still exists which makes it a crime to denigrate turkishness. used to clamp down on political expression. article viii of the antiterror act sumly is broadly -- similarly is broadly interpreted. so turkey has, under erdogan, adopted decidedly authoritarian tendencies. these negotiations that he's having with the pkk aren't motivateed by any respect for the kurds or any desire to institutionalize kurdish rights. they're motivated by one single goal: erdogan wants to establish an executive presidency through constitutional reform. thereby further consolidating his power.
they fareded very well in the kurdish elections so there is political in iraqi occur stan and power sharing. but also there will be a division. and systems of nepotism. two sets of security forces. two groups of peshmerga. and kurdistan democrat okayization is a work in progress. the fact that the kdp has consolidated under control and umbrella has been a positive contributor to the stability of iraq and occurred stack and there is an ongoing process underway. for kurds to articulate their desires for power sharing and for those to be reflected in the laws of eye rncy kurdistan and the quality of their political
leadership. a lot of progress so far with more work to be done. a great time for one more question. with the eye rncy system. yes. if you can please comment on the role that objection on mobile the oil company. okay. has had. >> objection is not one of the number of large oil companies that have production agreements with the kurdistan regional government. they did this unthreat of baghdad to lose their positions of which to develop oil fields and parts of iran. the kurds have been very steadfast and they have take even different approach than the iraqi government.